Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K, unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what's left of society into chaos. K's discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard, a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.
Ridley Scott’s original “Blade Runner”, released in 1982, is an iconic science fiction film, ground-breaking in its striking sets and notable for some fine acting performances. It was therefore always going to be a challenge to do a sequel, and the task has fallen to director Dennis Villaneuve (who directed “Arrival” and “Sicario”). It has to be said that the visuals and sets are stunning, every bit as striking as the original and then some. Every bit of the rumoured $185 million budget is up there on the screen for all to see.
The original film was set in 2019, which if nothing else reflects optimism of the screenwriter about the pace of technological development; I for one am still waiting for my flying car. The sequel is set thirty years on, with the same dystopian Los Angeles, constantly raining due to climate change and where most able-bodied humans have left for the off-world colonies. Back on planet Earth are the misfits, the disabled and the unwell, the human race supplemented by “replicants”, cyborgs that look human but are stronger and more intelligent, and are used as slave labour in the off-world colonies.
The original film followed a “bladerunner” called Deckard, a detective whose job it was to hunt down replicants that had rebelled. In an interesting twist, the bladerunner known as “K” featured in the sequel, played by Ryan Gosling, is himself a replicant. He works for hard-boiled police lieutenant Joshi (played by Robin Wright) and stumbles across something strange when he hunts down one particular replicant. A date that he sees brings back odd memories from within the implanted memories in his own mind, and he seeks out the person that constructs these implanted memories. He is aided by an artificial “pleasure model” hologram, the beautiful Joi (Ana de Armas) and his life is further complicated when his investigations come to the attention of powerful industrialist Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and his lethal sidekick Luv (Sylvia Hoeks). His journey takes him back into the past, teasing out his implanted memories and leading him back to his predecessor Deckard.
The movie is so beautiful to look at that it is easy to skip over its imperfections. The plot does not entirely come together, and the pace of the direction drags in places, the film running to a bloated 2 hours and 44 minutes – perhaps no one could bear to cut out much of those gorgeous sets. Ryan Gosling acts well, and indeed almost all the cast carry off their roles well. As in the original, there is some consideration to the bigger theme of what really makes us human. Replicants are very nearly human in every way, and some may be programmed so that they do not know their origin themselves, their implanted memories making them believe they are human. For me this theme was explored more fully on the original, and certainly the morality of the replicant creator seemed to be much more nuanced in the original. Jared Leto’s performance was one of the few disappointments in an otherwise high class set of acting.
However, although this film is not perfect by any means, its sheer scope and ambition are impressive, and the cinematography is surely some of the best ever